Tips for Choosing a Home Inspector

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Tips for Choosing a Home Inspector

The home inspection industry is plagued by incompetent inspectors.  Most states do not require licensing.  Anyone can call themselves a home inspector.  Therefore, it is important to screen and qualify an inspector before hiring him.   It is well worth the effort to find a seasoned professional.  The following questions can assist you.

    1. Is the inspector experienced?
    2. Is the inspector knowledgeable?
    3. Who referred you to the inspector?
    4. Which inspector will the inspection company send?
    5. Is the inspector covered by errors and omissions insurance and general liability insurance?
    6. How long does the inspection take?
    7. How much does the inspection cost?
    8. What type of report do you get and when do you get it?
    9. Is the inspector affiliated with any organizations?

Is the inspector experienced?

A full-time inspector who performs 250 or more inspections per year and has many years experience is most desirable. 

Is the inspector knowledgeable?

An inspector must have full working knowledge of every system in a home.  Most inspectors had formal training in just one trade. To become inspectors they had to cross-train in all the other relevant trades.  The more knowledgeable inspectors started with a degree in a field such as engineering or architecture that provides a broad background in general construction or they were trained to operate as a general contractor.  These are good bases to build from.  One does not acquire this kind of knowledge by taking a few courses or reading a book.  A good rule of thumb is to look for fifteen years of combined formal training and on-the-job experience in related fields.

Who referred you to the inspector?

The best referral is from someone you personally know and trust who was satisfied with the inspector's performance.  Although many real-estate professionals refer quality home inspectors there is a possible conflict of interest with this type of referral.  If you were not reliably referred to the inspector then ask for references from past clients, preferably from several years past.

Which inspector will the inspection company send?

When dealing with an inspection company the reputations of both the company and the inspector who is assigned to your home are important.  Request that an experienced inspector be assigned rather than a new one.

Is the inspector covered by errors and omissions insurance and general liability insurance?

It is to your advantage that your inspector has this coverage.  Do not be afraid to ask for a copy of the policies.

How long does the inspection take?

Ask how long the inspection will take and how many other inspections will be performed on the same day as yours.  If the inspection takes less than 2 hours find another inspector.  Performing a thorough inspection is very tiring, so arrange to be the first or second one of the day.

How much does the inspection cost?

This is one area where you do not want to nickel and dime.   A well-established, full-time professional inspector is going to be at the high end of the spectrum.  Several hundred dollars is a small price to pay to get the best protection you can for perhaps the biggest purchase of your life.

What type of report do you get and when do you get it?

You may want to ask this question since there are several answers.   An inspection should include a signed report that describes what was inspected and the condition of each inspected item.   Some inspectors use a checklist type of form with stock responses.   Other inspectors simply provide a written description of the conditions found.   A modern alternative to these are computer-generated reports.   The best of these are generated by advanced home inspection software systems and include comments specific to each home.

An important question to ask is, "When do I get the report?"   The checklist type and the handwritten type are usually delivered to you on-site.   Computer-generated reports are also available on-site from a few inspectors who bring a portable computer to the job.   Otherwise, the inspector mails the report .   You may want to know up front how long you can expect to wait for it.

Is the inspector affiliated with any organizations?

There are many local, state, and national organizations that an inspector can join as well as many franchises that an inspector can purchase. However, membership in any organization does not guarantee a quality inspector.   In the end, the individual inspector's experience and knowledge will determine the quality of the inspection.
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